Law firm Sidley hires Liekefett to head activism practice

BOSTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) – Sidley Austin LLP has hired a partner to head its activism practice as the law firm positions itself to pull in more work from corporations being targeted by money managers pushing executives to cut costs and improve operations.

Kai Liekefett joined Sidley’s M&A group from Vinson & Elkins, the law firm said on Thursday. Liekefett will work from Sidley’s New York office and head a team that is still being put together.

The move to hire Liekefett came as the world’s biggest law firms are jockeying to capture more of the work that comes when activist investors like Elliott Management and ValueAct Capital push companies to shake up their playbook, often by selling businesses.

“Activist work often leads to M&A work,” said Scott Freeman, co-leader of Sidley’s global M&A and Private Equity groups, “and we expect to cross-sell Kai’s work.”

Liekefett pushed Vinson & Elkins, a Houston-headquartered firm, to the top of the industry league tables. In the first half of 2017, V&E advised 16 companies being targeted by money managers, ThomsonReuters data show. Skadden, Arps, and Morgan Lewis followed in second and third place. Sidley, one of the world’s top 10 law firms with 2,000 attorneys, was not listed.

Liekefett studied law in Germany and worked in London, Hong Kong and Tokyo, something that may appeal to clients as activist investors move beyond U.S. borders. One of last year’s biggest activist campaigns was launched when New York-based hedge fund Third Point began pushing Swiss company Nestle S.A. for changes, including selling its stake in L‘Oreal. (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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